Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Embedded Reporter Tells How He Got to That Point in His Life

Last week author Andrew Lubin wrote a guest post about sending holiday joy to our troops. This week his guest post is in a more personal vein:

I always liked to write, but ended up in business school with a Masters in International Management instead. It was a great career, and I did some writing and speaking, but not on a professional basis. And to be honest, I never found a topic that really grabbed me – until five years ago.

I was driving home from Camp Lejeune, N.C., with my son Phil after he returned from Iraq in June 2003. He's a proud Marine, and fought in the initial invasion in March 2003.

He’s an artilleryman, and was an active participant in the big fight at An-Nasiriyah where so many Marines were killed (and in fact he was instrumental in rescuing Army private Jessica Lynch). So I was anxious to hear all about it.

My first questions to my 19-year-old combat veteran Marine were "What'd you do? What was it like?"

He proceeded to tell me the most hair-raising stories about the fight. And I realized that the press coverage, although well done, didn’t begin to do the story justice.

I was totally impressed by his stories as well as by his remarkably calm demeanor in relating them, and I thought I’d make a few pages of notes. Both my mom and dad were Marines (S/F!) in WWII, and I've still got a lot of their uniforms and memorabilia.

So I figured I'd write 10-15 pages about the battle and Phil's part in it, throw in some photos, and in 30 years some grandkid would say "Grandpa did all that ??"

Well, 50 pages and three calls to publishers later, I had a book ... my first: "Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq."

Suddenly I had a topic that grabbed me.

The book did well and I was invited to do a lot of TV and radio spots. I wrote some articles for various newspapers and I received a grant from the Marine Corps to write another book.

And then I went to Beirut with the 24th MEU and then to Iraq. And all that went well, so I went to Afghanistan. And suddenly I'm an embedded journalist with an audience who follows my work.

I've taken a boots-on-the-ground approach to my writing. I let the armchair gasbags and officious pundits talk about the war from the safety of their Washington offices. I’ll go out in the field and talk with the Marines and soldiers who are doing the fighting and dying.

I think that these young men and women are America's best, and therefore I need to do as good a job writing about their efforts as they do in fighting. And to do that I need to be up on the front lines with them.

So that’s one way to start a writing career. Perhaps not the safest, but certainly the most rewarding. I’ll be returning (for the fourth time) to Afghanistan in late March 2009 to cover these men and women.

They’re your sons and daughters over there, folks, or your neighbors' sons and daughters, and you need to know what they’re doing in your name. I’ll be covering them on The Military Observer, and I hope you’ll join us.

The photo for this post is of Andrew and his son Phil on deployment day in December 2005. Andrew's book "Charlie Battery" won the 2007 Gold Medal for Best Military Non-Fiction from the Military Writers Society of America. His newest book “Keep Moving or Die; Task Force Tarawa at An-Nasiriyah” will be published by Naval Institute Press in the second half of 2009. He has been on ABC, CNN, FOX, and Patriot Media and does a regular spot on Joey Reynolds WOR Radio (710 AM). He also writes on our troops on The Military Observer.

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